In its 12 seasons, NBC’s The Voice has introduced the world to some astonishing vocal talent, including Cassadee Pope, Sundance Head and Jordan Smith, and replaced even its predecessor American Idol as the country’s must-watch, debate-worthy singing competition. The Emmy-winning series has thrived on giving a spotlight to a wide range of performers who get to audition for the celebrity coaches without first being seen, not to mention the inherent chemistry of those coaches – anchored every season by Blake Shelton and Adam Levine. In honor of the show’s 13th season, which kicks off tonight at 8 pm ET with coaches Shelton, Levine, Miley Cyrus and Jennifer Hudson, here is a round up of the 10 best blind auditions in show history.
A four-chair turnaround looked like easy work for Wé McDonald and her spectacular vocal chops. “You came to this show to meet me,” said coach Alicia Keys after McDonald’s blind audition with “Feeling Good,” as recorded Nina Simone in 1965. “I don’t want you to be like anyone else. You were born to show people what love sounds like,” Keys continued in her powerful plea for McDonald to choose her as coach (it worked). After landing in third place at the end Season 11, McDonald has been working on her debut EP.
It’s easy to forget that Cassadee Pope, formerly the lead singer of pop-punk group Hey Monday, launched herself into the mainstream on The Voice stage. In her blind audition, Pope gave an emotional cover of Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” that highlighted her considerable vocal range and even showed off her angelic falsetto. After taking the Season 3 title, Pope released her solo country debut Frame by Frame, which she followed with the Summer EP. In 2016, she enjoyed her first country Number One singing with Chris Young on “Think Of You.”
Between her distinct yodel and booming lower register, Casi Joy’s blind audition performance of LeAnn Rimes’ “Blue” had no problem getting chair spins from all four judges. Surprisingly, Joy was eliminated from Team Blake during Season 12’s Live Playoffs after a fiery performance of Chris Stapleton’s “Parachute.” Nevertheless, Joy remains a fan favorite on social media (she’s racked up 25 million views and counting on Facebook) and spent the summer touring the U.S. and Canada with her band. Now, she’s been back in Nashville writing songs and expects her first radio single to drop this fall. Her debut EP Love on Repeat is available everywhere.
Head’s thunderous vocals and commanding stage presence helped him nab the title of Season 11 champ. In his blind audition, Head opted to show a restrained side of his voice in a subdued take on Otis Redding’s 1965 classic “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” holding back until he reached the explosive outro. In the season finale, Head performed the original song “Darlin’ Don’t Go” and went on to join his coach Blake Shelton on the Doing It to Country Songs Tour. His new album is slated for release this fall.
Adam Wakefield’s easy confidence morphed the massive arena stage of The Voice into an intimate dive. Performing the oft-recorded country classic “Tennessee Whiskey” as Chris Stapleton presented it on his 2015 album Traveller, Wakefield’s bluesy warble and masterful runs led to a heated fight between coaches Shelton and Levine. Wakefield ultimately chose to join Team Blake and finished second in Season 10. After the show, he released his self-titled EP in July 2017, featuring his lead single “Blame It on Me.” A recent RS Country new artist to watch, Wakefield is currently working on new music with his bluegrass group the Copperheads. He’s also filling in as lead singer for Grammy-winning bluegrass band the Steeldrivers following the exit of Gary Nichols.
A twangy, playful version of Taylor Swift’s 2010 hit “Mean” earned a three-chair turnaround for young Danielle Bradbery, the Texas native who won Season 4 of The Voice in 2013 at only 17 years old. Following her win, Bradbery released her self-titled debut album featuring the single “Heart of Dixie” and toured with some of country’s biggest stars including Brad Paisley, Hunter Hayes, and Scotty McCreery. In June 2017, she released the new song “Sway” and more recently issued “Hello Summer,” co-written by Thomas Rhett, Rhett Akins, the Cadillac Three’s Jaren Johnston and Julian Bunetta. Both songs will appear on Bradbery’s forthcoming album I Don’t Believe We’ve Met, due out December 1st.
Singing a moving rendition of Miley Cyrus’ 2013 hit “Wrecking Ball,” Christina Grimmie revealed tremendous vocal talent and cool poise far beyond her 19 years. Ultimately coming in third place on Season 6, she began touring with fellow Voice season 5 champ Tessanne Chin. Tragically, Grimmie was killed by a deranged fan in June 2016 following her concert in Orlando, Florida. On April, 21st 2017, Grimmie’s family posthumously released her third EP Side B. A few days later, coach Adam Levine joined his Season 12 team members on stage to sing The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” in Grimmie’s memory.
In his blind audition, Jordan Smith wasted no time in flooring judges with his impressive range and confidence with difficult scales on Sia’s “Chandelier,” getting all four coaches to pivot in awe. A week after winning Season 9, Smith became the first artist to hold the top two positions on the Billboard Christian Songs charts at the same time. Smith has since released his debut record Something Beautiful and holiday album‘Tis the Season, both with Republic Records. He’s currently recording his next full-length LP with a 2018 release date in mind. This fall, Smith will return to the road to tour with contemporary Christian artists Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith.
Billy Gilman’s pitch-perfect vocals on Adele’s “When We Were Young” were equal parts haunting and enthralling. “That intangible quality that you possess is exactly what embodies the person that wins the show. You really could be the guy, I’m blown away,” future coach Adam Levine said of Gilman’s blind audition. Meanwhile, both Blake Shelton and Miley Cyrus recognized Gilman from his early childhood fame, during which he became the youngest artist to hit Number One on the Billboard Top Country Albums charts at age 12. While he closed out Season 11 as the runner up, Gilman’s post-Voice success has included 45 million views on YouTube and 1.5 million listens on Spotify. Currently, he’s touring on the east coast and working on new music for 2018.
“I feel like I’m watching Garth Brooks in concert right now,” coach Blake Shelton quipped after Barrett Baber’s knockout blind audition with the Jeff Healy Band’s “Angel Eyes.” Baber went on to nail songs originall recorded by Conway Twitty, Lee Brice, Thomas Rhett, and Glen Campbell throughout Season 9. Finishing in third place, he released his album A Room Full of Fighters in 2016 and has supported Rascal Flatts, Darius Rucker, Kelsea Ballerini, and Cassadee Pope in the interim. More recently, Baber’s song “Still Stands” from A Room Full of Fighters was included in the new documentary Danger Close. The song honors the memory of Staff Sergeant Robert Pirelli, who was tragically killed in action in Iraq in 2007.